World-class entry for Roof of Africa
Some of the world's top enduro riders will be in action from 15-17 November in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, at the 45th running of the Roof of Africa - long regarded as one of toughest endures on the world calendar.
And right at the top of the list will be last year's winner, British rider Graham Jarvis (Husaberg) and Kiwi Chris Birch (KTM), who pulled off a hat trick of wins from 2008 to 2010 and would like nothing more than to add another Roof trophy in his last appearance before going home.
Birch has been living and competing in South Africa for the past two years, but will be returning to New Zealand immediately after the 2012 Roof of Africa.
The leaderboard is likely to feature fresh faces this year, however as 2003 winner Jade Gutzeit - who has been on the podium in each of the past four years - has retired after achieving his goal of winning the SA Enduro title.
Still in the hunt however, are Gutzeit's Yamaha team mates Marc Torlage (who has just wrapped up his third SA Enduro title in the E2 class) and Kenny Gilbert.
They'll be up against a gaggle of KTM stars, including British rider Paul Bolton, who'll be riding the Roof for the third time and hoping to do better than in 2011, when he crashed out early in the race.
Experienced extreme enduro rider and former winner of this race Darryl Curtis and his KTM team mate Riaan vwn Niekerk will tackle the Roof with extreme care - they're both focused on the Dakar Rally, less than six weeks later,
GIVING IT A FULL GO
Newly-crowned SA Off-Road OR1 champion Louwrens Mahoney, however, will be giving it a full go. Mahoney had a hat trick of wins in Lesotho from 2005-2007 but hasn't entered for the past few years.
Their KTM team mate, Altus de Wet, has clinched the OR2 SA Off-Road title and is a regular top 10. The KTM contingent will again be bolstered by the Hemingway brothers from the UK, Ben and Dan, who'll competing for the second consecutive year. They are multiple trials champions and will again use their trials-riding experience in the mountains of Lesotho.
Other international names on the entry list include German Andreas 'Letti' Lettenbichler (Husqvarna), a podium finisher in 2010, New Zealand rider Mitchell Nield (Yamaha), 10th in 2011 on his Roof of Africa debut, Italian KTM riders Piero Sembenini and Romeo Valbusa - regular competitors in extreme endures - and Spanish rider Melcior Faja Beltran, also on a KTM.
500KM IN THREE DAYS
Local names to look out for on the leaderboard include those of Wynand Badenhorst (KTM), who finished sixth in 2010 and multiple Senior Class Enduro champion, William 'Wild Will' Gillit (Yamaha) who'll be aiming for his seventh consecutive finish since competing for the first time in 2006, while multiple trials champions, Brent and Bruce le Riche (Beta) will be in action for the third consecutive year.
Competitors in the Pro Class will have to complete the full race distance of nearly 500km over three days, starting with the traditional (and very exciting) Round the Houses racing section in the streets of Maseru on Thursday morning, 15 November.
They'll then ride to the Thaba Bosiu area south of Maseru to tackle the 60km time trial that will determine the starting order for Friday's racing section - 245km from Thaba Bosiu to the aptly-named Free Fall Pass - with another 187 tough kilometres to the finish at Bushman's Pass on Saturday.